Scientific research involves a systematic process that focuses on being objective and gathering a multitude of information for analysis so that the researcher can come to a conclusion. This process is used in all research and evaluation projects, regardless of the research method (scientific method of inquiry, evaluation research, or action research). The process focuses on testing hunches or ideas in a park and recreation setting through a systematic process. In this process, the study is documented in such a way that another individual can conduct the same study again.
This is referred to as replicating the study. Any research done without documenting the study so that others can review the process and results is not an investigation using the scientific research process. The scientific research process is a multiple-step process where the steps are interlinked with the other steps in the process. If changes are made in one step of the process, the researcher must review all the other steps to ensure that the changes are reflected throughout the process. Parks and recreation professionals are often involved in conducting research or evaluation projects within the agency. These professionals need to understand the eight steps of the research process as they apply to conducting a study. Table 2.4 lists the steps of the research process and provides an example of each step for a sample research study.
Step 1: Identify the Problem
The first step in the process is to identify a problem or develop a research question. The research problem may be something the agency identifies as a problem, some knowledge or information that is needed by the agency, or the desire to identify a recreation trend nationally. In the example in table 2.4, the problem that the agency has identified is childhood obesity, which is a local problem and concern within the community. This serves as the focus of the study.
Step 2: Review the Literature
Now that the problem has been identified, the researcher must learn more about the topic under investigation. To do this, the researcher must review the literature related to the research problem. This step provides foundational knowledge about the problem area. The review of literature also educates the researcher about what studies have been conducted in the past, how these studies were conducted, and the conclusions in the problem area. In the obesity study, the review of literature enables the programmer to discover horrifying statistics related to the long-term effects of childhood obesity in terms of health issues, death rates, and projected medical costs. In addition, the programmer finds several articles and information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that describe the benefits of walking 10,000 steps a day. The information discovered during this step helps the programmer fully understand the magnitude of the problem, recognize the future consequences of obesity, and identify a strategy to combat obesity (i.e., walking).